On Tuesday a former nursing assistant at a VA hospital in West Virginia received seven life sentences for a series of murders she carried out at the hospital in 2017 and 2018.
During a hearing Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh called Reta Mays, 46, a monster of the “worst kind. You are the monster no one sees coming.” He delivered a life sentence for each murder victim, plus 20 years for an eighth victim she tried to kill. . . .
Mays is not eligible for probation for the seven life sentences, Kleeh said. She was ordered to pay restitution to the victims’ families.
The victims ranged in age from 81 to 96 and served in the Army, Navy and Air Force during World War II and wars in Korea and Vietnam. They died at the hands of the same person, at the same place, in the same way.
According to the article, Mays killed her victims by giving them lethal doses of insulin.
The Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reportedly conducted an investigation after the murders came to light, concluding that “serious, pervasive, and deep-rooted clinical and administrative failures” at the hospital allowed the murders to go undetected for nearly a year.
“While responsibility for these criminal acts clearly lies with Ms. Mays, the OIG found inattention and missed opportunities at several junctures, which, if handled differently, might have allowed earlier detection of Ms. Mays’ actions or possibly averted them altogether,” the inspector general’s office concluded.
The murders and the inspector general’s office report illustrate why oversight is so crucial in hospitals, nursing homes, and similar facilities.
Earlier this year the Arkansas House of Representatives defeated H.B. 1685 and H.B. 1686.
These bills would have made it easier to deny food and water to people who are dying; would have made it easier to take patients off life support; and would have made it possible for healthcare workers other than doctors to make decisions about end-of-life care without appropriate training.
There also were concerns that the bills would have reduced oversight in healthcare facilities and made it easier for nursing homes to hide abuse and neglect.
That’s why groups like National Right to Life, Arkansas Right to Life, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition USA, Family Council, Northwest Arkansas Respect Life, Arkansas Advocates for Nursing Home Residents and others opposed these bills.
This story from West Virginia is a chilling reminder of what can happen when healthcare facilities don’t have appropriate safeguards in place. It’s also a reminder of why states need strong laws that protect patients — especially vulnerable patients near the end of life.